Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Prescription Hearing Aids
As of October 2022, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a recognized category of hearing aids available to the public in the United States. The OTC hearing aid category established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes certain hearing aids to be sold to people 18 years of age and older who have perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment, and these devices must meet certain performance specifications and device design requirements. Licensed and unlicensed professionals and retailers may sell, service, market, dispense, or distribute OTC hearing aids, and states have limited oversight over their sale.
Additionally, what has historically been known as a traditional hearing aid is now classified as a “prescription hearing aid.” Prescription hearing aids are defined as those that do not meet the requirements for the OTC category (for example, because they are intended for severe hearing impairment or users younger than age 18), and help those with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss. When choosing between an OTC and prescription hearing aid, IHS recommends consumers seek out the guidance of a hearing healthcare professional to ensure they receive the right device that best suits their needs.
Why Visit a Hearing Healthcare Professional
Although members of the public now have access to OTC hearing aids, they should still seek out the opinions and recommendations of a licensed and trained hearing healthcare professional. Not only do consumers have access to high-quality prescription hearing aids from these licensed practitioners, but they also receive continued care through the life of their hearing aids. These services can include routine maintenance, custom fitting, cleaning, alterations, customer support, and the knowledge that these specialists bring to their field. Hearing aid specialists dispense about half of the hearing aids delivered in the public market and operate in both urban and rural areas.
Members of the hearing healthcare profession continue their education and training by undergoing competency accreditation, testing, adhering to licensing and certification requirements, and participating in optional advanced certification programs. It is recommended that even those who plan to purchase OTC hearing aid devices first seek out the opinion of a hearing healthcare professional to help them navigate the pros and cons of these intricate and complex devices.
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